Israelis are still reeling from the discovery of a special salute to Internet mega-giant Google performed by the men and women of Israel’s air force, yes, the same airforce that gave us the elimination of the flying capacity of three Arab armies in six days, and the bombing of an Iraqi nuclear plant, is now using its facilities in a publicity stunt for a search engine. When Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt was visiting Israel, his tour included the Hatzerim Air Force base in the Negev, he was received with a special video that was produced by the base, shot by artists Udi Even Haim, showing dozens of base soldiers forming with their bodies the brand name “Google.”
The story was exposed by Israel Radio military reporter Carmela Menashe, who heard it from the father of one of the participating soldiers. The father related how his son received an order to report for duty in the scorching heat at the Negev desert base, to be part of the special humanographic event.
As we said, shocked reactions have been pouring in from both sides of the aisle. MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Camp) tweeted: “You don’t need a search engine to understand that these gestures must be stopped. There cannot be a Google logo, nor events for the wealthy on [IDF] bases.”
Shelly Yachimovich (Zionist Camp) posted on her Facebook page: “What a disgrace. In 35 degree heat (that’s 95 degrees to you and me), an entire base, with its pilots, soldiers, commanders, budgets, planes and drones — dancing before the management of a private company who came to visit, bowing before them and pleasing them with modeling twists. … Where are the limits? Where is the national honor? And who will decide which company gets flattered and why, and how is this related to state security and the IDF ethos, and how much did this humiliation cost, and what for?”
“What’s next?” Yachimovich wondered. “Soldiers modeling the Nike logo? Tanks laid up in the shape of the Gerber Baby? Fighter planes leaving behind smoke streaks promoting a coffee and croissant campaign?”
MK Amir Ohana (Likud), who chairs the Knesset subcommittee on IDF HR, tweeted that “the IDF’s role is to provide security, not be a decorating committee. … This is not the reason why we have a compulsory draft.”
Ohana promised he would use his power as the Knesset member in charge of how IDF soldiers are utilized to reduce such shameful phenomena.
The IDF spokesperson’s office released a curt response saying the event was initiated by the local Air Force base commander as part of the visit. The spokesperson added, “The issue will be checked and lessons will be learned.”
Incidentally, Google, like so many other gazillion-dollar Internet giants, doesn’t pay taxes in Israel for its Israeli ads or VAT. According to Guy Ophir, an activist promoting taxing those giants, Google should be dropping about a quarter billion dollars annually in Israel if it were taxed fairly.